Faith in Elderly People (Leeds)
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Faith in Elderly People (Leeds) – FIEP – is a local ecumenical group concerned with the needs, including the spiritual needs, of older people, and especially those suffering with dementia and their carers.
It grew out of Faith in Leeds which was itself a local response to the national Church of England report “Faith in the City” (1985).
It was formed in 1991 following research by Anne Forbes into the needs, especially the spiritual needs, of older people, published as “Called to be old” (1991).
Some members of the group had experience of being a carer and others were professionally involved in working with older people, including those suffering from dementia.
There was, and still is, a considerable lack of understanding about dementia in society, and within the church. Good feelings about God and a sense of a personal worth can sometimes be recovered even when the mind has lost the ability to understand words; this can often be done by the use of other senses.
In 1993 Jackie Treetops, who had a special ministry to older people both in residential care and in their own homes, produced a guide to Christian ministry with older people, entitled “Daisy amongst the Dandelions” (1993). This was followed in 1996 by “Holy,Holy, Holy,” a practical guide for the churches ministry amongst those with dementia.
Members of the group spoke at conferences in different parts of the country and responded to requests from the local churches.
In 1995 a Day Conference was held in Leeds jointly with the Alzheimer’s Society.
The memory box was another project undertaken at this time. Any older person and especially those entering residential or nursing home care, can take with them a box containing treasures from their past, – not just photographs but other objects with a special or symbolic meaning. The Memory Box can help carers and staff in Homes, to know more about the earlier life of those for who they care; the older people themselves can be reminded of good times past; this can help to produce a sense of well-being which may continue even when the objects that caused it have been forgotten.
All this was achieved by the free services of many within the churches and from the voluntary sector. It was realised that if a half-time worker could be appointed, the work could be greatly expanded. £60,000 was raised from a number of different charities, which enabled the group in 1997 to appoint Gaynor Hammond to to be appointed, initially for three years, on a half-time basis. Gaynor, a State-registered nurse, had experience of working with those with dementia and had a great interest in Christian discipleship which led later to ordination in the Baptist Church.
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